While Princeton students next year will enjoy the lowest percentage increase of tuition and fees in more than thirty years, their peers at Williams College will be shelling out the same amount they paid this year.
The University Board of Trustees last weekend approved a $661-million budget for the next academic year that includes a 3.3 percent increase in the comprehensive fee from $31,599 to $32,636.
Williams, on the other hand, announced last month it would hold student fees at $31,520 for next year because alumni gifts and "recent exceptional returns on the endowment have put the College in [an] especially strong financial position," according to a letter to students from Williams College president Carl Vogt.
University Director of Communications Justin Harmon '78 said Princeton's tuition increase figure is somewhat misleading. The University has chosen to keep the cost of attending Princeton down by a combination of increased financial aid and lower rates of tuition increase, he said. Williams College, he explained, appears to be concentrating more on the rate of tuition increase.
"We have had a long-term commitment to financial aid," Harmon said. "People focus on tuition numbers like they do with sticker prices of autos. What they have to understand is that the sticker price is not the real price for a substantial number of people buying."
Forty-three percent of undergraduates at Princeton, for example, receive some financial aid from the University, he added.
Though the University arrived at the final budget figures independent of Williams' decision, Harmon acknowledged that other colleges' fees influence the price of a Princeton education. "We pretty much set our own course, but the pricing of our competitors does affect our decisions," he said.
"In the long term, we're better positioned than our competitors to keep costs down," he added, explaining that the size of the University's endowment would allow more flexibility in the future. Princeton boasts the highest per-student endowment figure in the nation.
In recent years the trustees have attempted to keep the rate of tuition increase in line with that of family incomes, Harmon said. "We think this year we have pretty much done it. The goal the following year is to hold to the level."
Williams chose to freeze student fees next year because, unlike an increase in financial aid, all students would benefit, according to Williams College Director of Public Affairs James Kolesar.
"It seemed the right thing to do," he said, explaining that generous donations and above-average endowment growth — from $333 million in 1991 to $1 billion today — have put the college in excellent financial condition.
Elsewhere in the Ivy League, Cornell University will increase its fees for next year by 4.2 percent, the lowest adjustment since 1965, according to a press release.
"The trustees have committed themselves to keep tuition as low as possible while raising endowment funds for scholarships," Cornell News Service director Linda Grace-Kobas said, adding that she did not think it was realistic for other institutions to follow Williams' tuition freeze.
The other six Ivy League institutions have not yet announced student tuition and fees for next year.